Basic Japanese Math

By Donnie | Articles

I was sitting next to one of my Japanese coworkers today and we were talking about ropeways, cable cars, and just some differences between English and Japanese. For some reason or another, I was flipping through a Japanese textbook of mine, and tucked away index were some Japanese notes I had scribbled to myself. On this paper, I had written down some things I wanted to know how to say in Japanese. One of these things was a basic that I still wasn’t do: say basic math functions in Japanese.

Since I had already started a fun little conversation with the Japanese teacher next to me, I decided to ask the teacher some basic math questions. It ended up being a great idea, because it transformed from a basic Q & A into a mini language exchange. This teacher was just as interested in learning how to say these functions in English as I was about learning them in Japanese. We both pulled out our notebooks and pencils, and the learning process began.

The great thing about having this conversation with my fellow teacher, was that it answered a question that I have been meaning to ask for weeks now. Ever wondered how to say equations in Japanese? Well, I did, and when one of my students put me on the spot about a month ago, I honestly didn’t know how to explain even the most basic of equations in Japanese. It’s really basic stuff, but easy to overlook; I guess when you go to a store or even to a bank, nobody’s going to say “Hey you! Quick, read this equation.”

Today, let’s go through some basic math together. Yes, I know the problems are really easy, but there is a little twist is I’m going to give you today. I’m going to tell you how to read each of these equations in Japanese:

Here are the four basic mathematical operations 加減乗除, kagenjojo or かげんじょうじょう, in Japanese

1. ADDITION: Tasu (足す)

2. SUBTRACTION: Hiku (ひく or 引く)

3. MULTIPLICATION: Kakeru (掛ける or かける)

**One teacher was telling me that for “kakeru”
we often just use the hiragana, and not the kanji as much.**

4. DIVISION: Waru (割る or わる)

Let’s start first with addition. The addition symbol in Japanese is read as tasu and the equals sign is read as wa. Here are three basic addition examples:

1 + 1 = 2
Ichi tasu ichi wa ni

5 + 8 = 13
Go tasu hachi wa jusan

75 + 65 = 140
Nanajugo tasu rokujugo wa hyaku yon ju

When you subtract, you use the word “hiku” to say the equation.
Next we’ll look at three subraction examples:

5 – 3 = 2
go hiku san wa ni

9 – 1 = 8
Kyu hiku ichi wa hachi

114 – 15 = 99
Hyakujuyon hiku jugo wa kyujukyu

Now for division. We’ll use the word waru to say “divided by.”
Let’s look at three division examples.

2 ÷ 2 = 1
Ni waru ni wa ichi

42 ÷ 7 = 6
Yon jyu ni waru nana wa roku

3000 ÷ 3 = 1000
Sanzen waru 3 wa sen

Last but not least we’ll use the term kakeru for multiplication.
Here are three multiplication examples for you to practice:

4 x 5 = 20
Yon kakeru go wa nijyu

9 x 9 = 81
Kyu kakeru kyu wa hachijyu ici.

1000 x 100 = 100000
Sen kakeru hyaku wa juman

That wraps up our brief arithmetic lesson for today. I hope you got something useful out of it.

Happy number crunchin’!

Donald Ash

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  • Matthew Wallace says:

    Thats awesome! I have not seen it so clearly written out before, it makes sense now.

    Your second division example appears to be missing some romaji.
    42 ÷ 7 = 6
    Yon jyu ni waru nana ni roku

  • Matthew Wallace says:

    Whoops, it got me too!

    Yon jyu ni waru nana wa roku

  • Chris says:

    OK… so here’s a better question for ya…

    What are “Japanese Word Problems” called? 😉

    The typical — if a shinkansen leaves tokyo at 8:15 heading toward Osaka at 250 km/hr, if Osaka is 350km away, how long does it take…. sorta deal… any clue?

    • Donald Ash says:

      I honestly don’t have the answer to this one, but I know what question I’ll be asking on Monday, ;). It’s so funny you mentioned that type of problem. The EXACT same type of “rate” math question ran through my mind, too, and I asked about it. I found out how to explain the elements of those types of word problems, but forgot to ask what the actual word problems are called. Check back soon, because I will find out the answer to that question. Thanks for posting.

    • THE RIVER PUPPY says:

      Umm, it seems i’ve made a terrible mistake in the last post. It should be

  • Petaris says:

    Thanks for the examples and the lesson Donald! This is very useful and nice to have written out so clearly! 🙂

  • Kumiko says:

    That’s great!
    I envy you have many language teachers around you 😀
    I usually come up with so many simple words and phrases that I cant translate…
    I should write them down so that I can ask you!

  • Jody Weissler says:

    I came across your site while doing research for I am going to read all your math related posts now and keep up the blogging 🙂

  • Ania Thomas says:

    Awesome! thanks

  • Mir says:

    114 – 15 = 99
    Hyaku hiku jugo wa kyujukyu
    It should be ” Hyaku juu yon hiku juugo wa kyuujuukyuu”

    1000 x 100 = 10000
    Sen kakeru hyaku wa ichiman

    100,000 not 10,000
    so it should be “juuman”

    • thejapanguy says:

      Whoa, don’t know how I screwed that up :O You’re absolutely right, Mir. Thank you for letting me know. I went back and fixed everything.

      • Jenni Caldwell says:

        I cant even read how you’d write the equation in Japanese. Like for the equation example in addition it cuts off at WA the equal sign. Since, I learned some Japanese I know the next word is ni. But I don’t know how to write the equation in Japanese.

  • Student forever says:

    you misspelled 114 in the subtraction area

  • HDMI says:

    So is + (The + being what most people in the use in the world as the symbol for Plus aka Addition in Maths and it also being the kanji for Jyu aka Ten in English) both the kanji for 10 (Jyu) and Addition (Tasu) in Japanese?

    If not what is the kanji for Tasu (Addition) when it comes to Kanji Maths?

  • Aaron says:

    Awesome post! Thanks a lot.

    The kanji here is incorrect I think:
    四掛ける五は虹湯 (虹 にじ rainbow) (湯 ゆ Hot water)

    It should say:

  • Himani says:

    do you have any pictures of math test/quizzes/exams from a Japanese school

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